True freshman Jalen Hurts earned his first career start in his first ever game inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
He then proceeded to do everything possible to ensure it wasn’t his last.
Hurts helped lead No. 1 Alabama to a 38-10 win against Western Kentucky on Saturday, completing 23 of 36 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns.
“He made some good decisions,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “He did some things that had some guys open that he didn’t hit. I think we got to get more comfortable in making those reads.”
Hurts became the first true freshman to start at Alabama since Vince Sutton started for the Crimson Tide in 1984. Despite his performance, Saban did not name Hurts the starter after the game, stating that he would need to look back at the tape before making any further decisions.
Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett, who got the start in Week 1, came in midway through the second quarter but was eventually subbed out again for Hurts to start the second half. Barnett finished the game 2 of 6 for 64 yards.
“I think we need to watch the film and make that decision,” Saban said. “...Whoever plays quarterback here needs to play better.”
After a disastrous start last week, which saw Hurts fumble on his first collegiate snap, the freshman could not have asked for a better beginning Saturday.
Hurts found sophomore Calvin Ridley for a 28-yard shovel pass on Alabama’s first offensive play of the game. The Tide’s drive would later stall, ending on a missed 48-yard field goal attempt from kicker Adam Griffith, but Hurts would continue to shine.
Hurts went 9 of 11 for 150 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, including a four-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley to put Alabama up 10-3 on the last play of the quarter.
After being held to two catches for 9 yards in Week 1, Ridley reeled in nine receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. ArDarius Stewart picked up from his hot performance in Week 1 with five catches for 90 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown reception from Hurts in the third quarter.
“I don’t look for individual stats,” Ridley said. “I just want to go out there and help us win and get back to where we were at.”
Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White entered Saturday’s game as the nation’s leading passer with 517 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1. He ended the afternoon on the bench.
Alabama held White to 10 of 24 passing for 135 yards and an interception that was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by senior safety Eddie Jackson. The Tide dominated the Hilltoppers’ high-flying offense early, holding WKU to 163 yards at the half.
However, Alabama let the Hilltoppers drive late, including a late touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Eckels to receiver Lucky Jackson with 46 seconds left in the game. The play was the first touchdown Alabama allowed this season.
“As a team, I think we let each other down,” said senior linebacker Ryan Anderson. “... It followed up on our leadership. All the leaders on the team, including myself, we got to come out and we got to prepare better throughout the week.”
Despite the 28-point win, many Tide players were not happy with the team’s performance on the day. Alabama was charged with 12 penalties for 84 yards and fumbled the ball late in the fourth quarter to set up Western Kentucky’s touchdown.
Alabama also struggled to move the ball on the ground, heading into the half with 13 yards on 16 carries before eventually gaining 124 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been this disappointed after winning a game, maybe ever,” Saban said. “We have lots of work to do. We’re going to play a lot better teams.”
Next week, Alabama will open up conference play with a trip to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss. The Rebels are the only SEC team to defeat the Tide in the past two seasons, beating Alabama 43-37 last year and 23-17 in 2014.
“I’ve been ready since last year and the year before,” said senior defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson. “We are pretty ready for the game. We have a lot of work to do to improve this week, and we got to get ready to move on to the next team.”
BAMA—FG Griffith 36, 09:14.
WKY—FG Nuss 25, 08:06.
BAMA—Ridley 4 pass from Hurts (Griffith kick), :03.
BAMA—E.Jackson 55 interception return (Griffith kick), 09:15.
BAMA—A.Stewart 8 pass from Hurts (Griffith kick), 03:55.
BAMA—Scarbrough 2 run (Griffith kick), 13:18.
BAMA—Emmons 6 run (Griffith kick), 04:34.
WKY—L.Jackson 24 pass from Eckels (Nuss kick), :53.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—W. Kentucky, Wales 11-44, Trigg 2-7, Baker 4-7, Eckels 1-(minus 6), White 3-(minus 14), T.Ferguson 1-(minus 15). Alabama, D.Harris 11-45, Emmons 6-41, Scarbrough 5-19, Hurts 11-19, A.Stewart 2-12, Ridley 1-6, Gore 1-1, Re.Foster 1-(minus 5), (Team) 1-(minus 14).
PASSING—W. Kentucky, Fant 0-1-1-0, White 10-24-1-135, T.Ferguson 7-10-0-55, Eckels 2-3-0-26. Alabama, Barnett 2-6-0-64, Hurts 23-36-0-287.
RECEIVING—W. Kentucky, T.Taylor 9-121, Donatell 3-20, L.Jackson 2-45, Norris 2-20, S.Johnson 1-9, Trigg 1-2, Wales 1-(minus 1). Alabama, Ridley 9-129, A.Stewart 5-90, Ro.Foster 3-13, Dieter 2-56, Howard 2-29, D.Harris 2-14, Diggs 1-14, Hentges 1-6.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Alabama, Griffith 48. CONFERENCE USASOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE